We met up at the lobby of our hotel in Nice, France, to ride our Topdeck tour bus to Monaco.
Monaco is where the world’s rich and famous hang out, so the prices of their hotels are pretty steep. So if you’re not rich and famous, it’s more advisable to stay in Nice, where it’s cheaper, then just take a less than 1 hour ride to Monaco for the night. There is no airport in Monaco, so you can’t fly there by plane, only by helicopter. Another option: yachts.
Our tour guide Ray Ray told us to bring our passports because Monaco had an unusual immigration border process. It’s such a rich country, he said, that the government had such high tech facilities that enabled them to scan passports while you’re in the vehicle without you having to get down. All you needed to do was press your passport against the window. He asked us to take out our passports and do just that, just as we passed the border.
Boy, we were impressed!
Then his voice broke over our murmurs of amazement. “You should see how ridiculous you all look!” he laughed. “I can’t believe you fell for it!”
Turns out he had a bet against our driver Karol on how gullible we would be. 😅
So no, Monaco doesn’t have that facility and like all Schengen countries, they don’t ask to check your passports unless you look suspicious.
Our first stop was the palace of the prince.
Apparently, the flag is a signifier of whether the prince is currently in the country or not.
But the palace wasn’t the view we were there for, but this:
So many yachts! What a gorgeous view indeed!
Below are a few other structures we passed on the way to the above views.
Then we went back up on the bus and got dropped off at the place Monaco is most famous for: Monte Carlo.
Monaco is such a small country – only 2 square km (1.24 square miles) – that an average person could walk across the its width in less than an hour. But Monte Carlo is located at a high place, so high that at the end of that night, my health app said I had climbed 25 floors. 😳
While we walking around, looking for a place to have dinner, one of the girls complained that somebody should have told her that there would be a lot of walking and climbing so she wouldn’t have worn such high heels. Luckily I was in flats.
We had a hard time looking for a place to eat dinner, and it did not help that a lot of people we asked did not speak English. I was so hungry and tired that I finally said, “Can we just eat at McDonalds, please?” when I saw a sign indicating one. And that is how we ended up eating at a fast food joint at one of the classiest countries in the world! 😅
Then it rained, so there was a moment when we had to run around dressed up, umbrellaless.
Monaco lives solely off the income from their casinos, and citizens do not pay taxes due to this. But the funny thing is that their citizens are not allowed to gamble or even visit the casinos.
We would have wanted to go into the famous Casino de Monte Carlo, but you had to pay 20 euros to get in, so we decided to go into the cheapest casino, instead. Unfortunately I can’t remember what it’s called!
Anyway, I have never gambled in a casino before in my life, unless you count that time I tried my hand at the slot machine in Marina Bay Sands and lost 10 bucks in one go.
So when we walked in, we had no idea what to do. Luckily, one our tour mates, Dean, helpfully explained the rules for the roulette table. He said the minimum amount you needed to “buy in” to the table was 100 euros.
My friends Kes, Drew, and I had 100 euros left for our joint travel fund, so we decided to gamble that. We were given 20 chips, and we divided it among the 3 of us.
Dean explained that you could bet a minimum of 1 chip (5 euros) on any number or a minimum of 4 chips on a colour – black or red. Then they would spin the roulette, and if it lands on the number or colour you bet on, you win. The number has higher winnings compared to colours.
I lost my first couple of bets. So did Kes and Drew. When I was down to my last 25, I decided to bet 20 on the colour red. “Why don’t you bet your last 5 euros on your lucky number?” Dean suggested. So I put my last chip on my favourite number, my birthday – 7.
To my complete surprise, the roulette landed on 7! Next thing you know, the casino guy was handing me a huge stack of chips. “OMG, how much are these?” There were 35 of them in all – 175 euros!
I did not want to risk losing anything more after I had just won back our travel fund and more, so I cashed it in, but not before sneakily taking a photo (because I’m not sure taking photos indoors was allowed).
So this is what they call beginner’s luck! ☺️
And Dean is what they call a lucky charm? I thanked him and bought him a drink in Florence.
After that we walked around and took more photos of Monte Carlo. We also went into a souvenir shop where I looked for something to buy with my winnings. I found the perfect one – a keychain with symbols of good luck on it – four leaf clover 🍀, horseshoe 🐎, and my lucky number 7️⃣!
Then we rode our tour bus back to our hotel in Nice. The next morning we drove to our hotel in Florence, but not before stopping by the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, up next.